JOPLIN, MO -- The new, one of a kind airplane, isn't designed for C.E.O.'s, or professional athletes. It was made to help transport critically ill infants and kids to medical treatment that could save their lives. Children's Mercy Flight Nurse Angie Cunningham says the plane will increase the care a sick child receives on the way to a hospital. "We actually bring the intensive care unit to the patient." Cunningham explains. "Almost all of the therapy's that can be provided in the I.C.U., we can provide the minute we meet the patient, and throughout the entire flight."
Whether it's keeping a patient stable in flight, or resuscitating them in the air, doctors on board have the necessary tools to help. Children's Mercy Transport Team Medical Director Dr. Brian Olsen says the plane allows the crew to provide state of the art care in flight. "There are a number of things we can do with this aircraft that is not commonly available to communities across the nation."
The new plane will hold two patients plus the flight crew, and will often have space for one parent to travel along. The plane can fly nearly 300 miles per hour. Cunningham says the reduced transport time could save lives. "When a child is critically ill, 15 to 20 minutes could be the difference between life and death sometimes." She explains.
The hospital's old plane made 400 life saving trips last year, including 100 to Joplin. But doctors say patients prefer the creative colors and pictures that are painted on the outside of the plane, instead of what's inside of it. "We do it to provide the children with a level of comfort. They can look at this and say 'this is kid friendly'." Cunningham explains. "I'm going to be safe with these people for a while"
Children's Mercy Hospital helped nearly 15,000 patients under the age of 21 last year. Hospital officials say with the new aircraft, they may start flying to other cities in the mid west this year.